PPC – Three foolproof steps to excellent AdWords ads

PPC - Three foolproof steps to excellent AdWords ads

Communicating in the digital age has never been easier. Yet for every single message we send — no matter how simple — we’re required to make an amazing number of decisions. Which medium should I use? Email? Text? Instant message? A phone call (gasp)?

And beyond the decision of which medium to use, there are infinite tics and nuances in each and every interaction. Should I use a greeting? What punctuation or capitalization should I use? No exclamation points? Too many? “You” or “u?” Emojis? 

Those little choices that we all make around each seemingly simple message are aimed at helping to establish a connection with someone, and hopefully, they make the message as compelling as possible.

Auction-time ads

Subtle nuances and customizations aren’t limited to emails or text messages, though; they can also be applied to your AdWords ads. Think about how many impressions your ads serve each day. Now think about how much you could improve your performance if you set up your campaigns so the AdWords system customizes your entire ad unit the same way you do your emails or texts.

You want your readers to be receptive to your message, and, with a bit of work in AdWords, you can utilize the system to tailor each and every ad to a user and their auction-time context.

I’ve talked about auction-time bidding before, and that same auction-time concept applies to ad creative. AdWords assembles your ad unit (ad + extensions) for each auction. There are a few straightforward ways to ensure that you have the best chance at a successful, clickable, conversion-driving ad unit.

Provide a bunch of great components and set them free

A great ad unit is a combination of your ad and your ad extensions. But what extensions to show when? The best way to deliver great auction-time ads is to create a whole bunch of great components, then let the system pick between them using all the data accessible to it.

1. Optimize your ad rotation for clicks or conversions

This is a topic I’ve covered before in depth, but it’s something I love talking about. An optimized ad rotation is a competitive advantage for you. It allows the system to choose the ideal ad for each context. Maybe one ad does better on mobile; maybe another does better in a certain geography; maybe another does better at a certain time of day. Maybe all of those performance trends are different when those settings are combined. A great mobile ad in the morning might be different from a great mobile ad during lunchtime.

I know you’re all capable of figuring out these trends for yourself. But I also know that it’s impossible to actually implement all of those insights at the time of each auction. I totally get (and even applaud) people’s deep appreciation for split-testing ads, but I think the A/B approach to message testing is becoming outdated. If A works better here and B works better there, let the AdWords system serve them where they’re already known to perform better.

Once you’ve started optimizing your ad rotation, you should factor in % served to help decide the outcomes of ad tests. If you already have five ads in an ad group, and something is barely serving at all, it’s an indication that you can probably remove that messaging and cycle in something new.

When managing your account, you should use a combination of metrics to decide which ads to leave running. CTR, % served, total impressions served, CPC and average position can all be helpful in determining which ads could be replaced. And remember to view results segmented by Network (with search partners) to compare those stats on an equal playing field.

2. Provide 3 to 5 ads per ad group

It might seem like overkill, but as long as you’re optimizing your rotation, there’s almost no downside to enabling multiple ads per ad group. The system is going to choose what’s known to perform best for the context, and different ads appeal to different users at different times. The more ads you provide, the more options you’ll have to show the ideal message for any context.

Our internal numbers at Google bear this out, too. When compared to ad groups with one or two ads, ad groups with three or more ads can receive up to 15 percent more clicks/conversions, as long as you’re optimizing your rotation. Those extra options for messaging are valuable.

And one quick tip: use IF functions to make each of those ads even more dynamic for devices or audiences.

3. Implement every ad extension that makes sense

Extensions are a part of Ad Rank. They’re also great for performance, as ads with them are typically clicked a bunch more. And they’re great for users, as they’re helpful and add more information to an ad unit. And they’re already optimized to drive the best performance for you.

The optimized ad rotation settings that you need to opt into are the default for extensions. The best combination of extensions is already chosen for each auction, so it’s really just up to you to add them. Target four or more, as up to four extensions can show with each ad.

Your options include sitelink, callout, call, structured snippet, price, location, affiliate locations, review, app, message. If you qualify for any of those and don’t have them enabled yet, enable them already. Set them up today. And if you think they’re set up, but you aren’t sure, audit your extensions to ensure that they’re in place for all of your campaigns.

This is the stuff that makes your ads more fun, useful, and even imperative. They’re like the links, photos and maps that you can (and probably should) use to enrich your digital messages to friends or colleagues.


You serve a ton of impressions each day. And the process of serving a customized message in each of those impressions is very straightforward, so you can easily start delivering auction-time ads. Think about the beauty of communication in the digital age and its endless nuance, then bring that same level of nuance and customization to your creative messaging.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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